Multi-millennial climate change projection

by Simon Bjerkholt

What will the world look like due to humankind’s mistreatment of the environment in 100 years? 1000? 10000? Peter U. Clark et al. (2016) attempt to answer these questions in their article “consequences of twenty-first-century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change” in the journal Nature Climate Change. According to their research and projections, the long term future of our climate looks very dreary.

The authors of this article projected that over the next 10,000 years, the sea level should rise between 25 and 52 meters due to carbon emissions. This projection far surpasses the sea level rise projected for the year 2100 by at least an order of magnitude. The authors explain that this sea level rise will result as a product of the greenhouse gasses we have already emitted or will emit in the near future due to the large inertia of our climate systems. This inertia will cause the greenhouse gases to remain in the atmosphere for millennia unless we can establish efficient ways to capture and store airborne emissions. The authors also explained that these effects will most likely occur regardless of whether or not we are able to greatly reduce our carbon output.

The authors later explain the implications of these long term effects on our current climate change policy. They contend that it is very hard to create policy for the extremely long term because most people place little to no monetary value on on the distant future. Thus the argument becomes more about human values and the preservation of our environment in the name of cross generational equity and respect for the thousands of generations before ours that have for the most part respected the environment and left us with the vast biodiversity we have today.

Clark, P., Shakun, J., et al. 2016. Consequences of twenty-first century policy for multi-millennial climate and sea-level change. Nature Climate Change vol. 6.

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